Digital marketers are used to working remotely and collaborating across teams. So what can digital marketing teach us about working remotely?
What do you think remote work looks like?
Is it sitting at home in your dressing gown?
Maybe you think remote working is working at a different location?
Did you ever consider that you could already be working remotely, even if you go to the office every day?
This is what we can learn from digital marketers. Working remotely can be defined in many ways and mean different things. Your HR Manager might not want to admit it, but many employees are already working remotely.
I would define remote working as anytime you conduct business not in person. You could be making a phone call, sending an email, joining a zoom call. All of these could take place in your office. So, you don’t have to be apart, to work remotely.
Of course, the true definition of remote working is the ability to conduct your work activities from any location. However, this flexible approach to work is not a new concept. What’s changing now is how often people are going to be asked to work from home.
How do digital marketers work remotely?
What you need
In order to work remotely you need the right equipment. This could be a laptop and WiFi or your smartphone with all the apps you need. Either way, if you don’t have the right tools at your fingertips you aren’t going to be able to do your job. Start by asking what tasks you need to complete and then you can figure out the technology part from there. You’d be amazed by how much digital marketing is completed on a smartphone or iPad.
Where are you working?
Most of the time, working remotely will mean working from home. Do you have space for a home office? Do you have a comfortable chair and desk to work at? Working at the seaside might sound like fun, but it’s not without its challenges.
The importance of routine
Flexible working arrangements bring many non-work benefits. However, I’d strongly encourage you to consider working within routines. You don’t need to replicate the 9-5, but you need to learn how to work remotely. It’s just as easy to fall into the trap of working longer hours as it is to fall behind in your work. This is where routines help. You may need to experiment with what works best for you, but finding a work life balance is very important to successful remote work. Digital marketers are used to testing and running experiments and we know this approach can be applied to all sorts of tasks.
A central communications hub
This could be your intranet, a sharepoint site, a Trello board etc. You’ll need a place to share information with your team. It could be a series of tools. The important bit is that everyone knows where to go in the first place. You could use your messaging tools, such as email and slack to direct users to this place.
Make communicating with your team easy
Internal communications is never as straightforward as people think. I’d bet that very few organisations approach internal communications in the same way they approach their external messaging. In other words, it’s probably not strategic and the execution is not planned. A digital marketing team will know to address internal communications at the outset of any project/campaign.
Software – the tools you’ll use to do your job
Digital marketers know the advantages of cloud based software for remote work and collaboration, but not every company wants to use cloud based tools. If you want to work remotely, you need to ensure that the software you want to use is available to you, wherever you are and available to use on the device of your choosing.
Which tools do you have access to?
It’s probably a safe bet to assume you have access to email. But what other messaging apps do you have access to? There are many business focused messaging apps such as Slack, Teams, Skype and Jabber. How many of you use WhatsApp to talk about your work on your personal phone? Digital marketers know to keep work conversations centralised and within as few apps as possible. With so many collaboration tools having messaging built in, it’s important to agree how your team is going to use these. If at all.
Training – you don’t know, what you don’t know
How are you going to ensure your team uses these communications tools properly?When working in a remote team you can’t assume that everyone knows how to get the most out of your tools. It can feel daunting to ask for help, but remember that your colleagues might have the same questions. Digital marketers know there is no such thing as a stupid question, so ask if you are uncertain. Training documentation can be stored online and shared centrally.
You need to put systems/policies in place
Digital marketers understand the benefits of having robust systems and policies in place. It’s what allows us to evaluate campaigns and provides the criteria we are judged on. Your company will already have a set of policies and systems in place for you, but do you know what they are? Take the time to review these. They are important.
Take advantage of the tools and services you employ so that they reduce friction and make team collaboration and communication easier. Use dashboards to keep stakeholders informed of progress against KPIs. Empower managers to stay on top of progress without hassling their staff.
The real challenge remote working presents
The challenge with remote working is not technology. The real challenge is replacing in person conversation. The idle chit chat, the water cooler gossip. How do you replicate that experience when everyone is working remotely?
Replicating the office culture is difficult when you work remotely, but it’s not impossible.
What’s the answer?
We all need to learn to be better communicators. One of the key skills of digital marketing is knowing how to communicate key messages to a specific audience. It’s niche marketing rather than mass marketing. But, people who work in digital marketing are not always the best communicators. What we are good at though is finding a way.
How can you improve the culture at your company?
"This is not a technology problem, this is a communications problem"
This is one of my favourite quotes. Unfortunately though, I am seeing it more and more as companies try to implement digital transformation. Digitising processes is usually quite easy from a technical standpoint. Transformation or business change is, on the face of it, also quite straightforward. However, overcoming resistance is more often than not the sticking point. These challenges are human in nature and not technical, so how do you overcome those?
With better messaging
As we all start to change how we work, we need to consider how we communicate entirely. If there is no office to go to, how do we ensure everyone is getting the message?
Choose the right tool for the job
How many people like email? Not many it seems. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Email marketing is still one of the top performers in the digital world, so why aren’t more companies using these tactics for their internal emails?
If your company sends the same email to all of your staff, are you maximising the message or are you missing an opportunity? Is the message even being read?
Do people really hate email or do they actually hate the content of those emails?
This is where digital marketing can help transform your internal communications. For example, user research can help define your problems and from there you can test solutions.
Maybe email is the wrong tool, but is Slack or Teams going to fix it?
Speed is holy grail today. The quicker the better. As soon as you can. Less is more. And one of the common gripes with messaging apps is the ‘always on’ nature. It really doesn’t matter what the medium is when notifications can disturb you at any time. Technology made messaging easy and direct. But did it provide a solution or has it created another problem?
Digital marketing can fix corporate communications
To develop corporate culture, you need better internal communications. Digital marketing has many techniques that you can use to break down silos, build communities and improve cross team collaboration.
What can digital marketing teach us?
If you value employee buy in, you need to integrate digital marketing into your company’s internal communications process. Sales and Marketing people will often talk about funnels, but this process of attracting awareness, generating interest and stimulating desire with the aim of encouraging action is simply content marketing. By doing this you are ‘funneling’ your prospect along a path of your choosing. As digital marketers, we know we can apply this technique to internal communications.
What sets us apart though, is knowing that we can evaluate all our internal communications.
For example: Your company publishes a new policy.
Your digital marketing team can provide these answers and also recommendations for going forward.
Digital marketers understand that the only thing that matters to your audience is how it benefits them. So you could use digital marketing to improve your internal communications by demonstrating value to your employees.
Create communication loops
The best digital marketers know how to maximise their content marketing.
They know how to:
Digital marketing provides a strategic framework for internal communications
Compare traditional internal communications to content published on social media. Your employees are comfortable using social media. They like it. They expect it and they demand it. Do you make your internal communications more like social media? Probably not, but what lessons can you learn and how can you transform your messaging to better engage your employees? Should you try producing more video? What about publishing shorter and more frequent updates? Is it time to review your style guide?
Digital Marketing can really benefit remote teams
So there you have it. Digital marketing is more than creating awareness and channeling sales. Digital marketing can improve your internal communications and also help develop company culture.